Wahrscheinlich vs. wohl says that "warscheinlich" and "wohl" are interchangeable when they mean "probably". However, I have been told that the following 2 sentences do not mean exactly the same.

  • Du bist wahrscheinlich müde. (= You are probably tired. I'm guessing or inferring from the time of day)
  • Du bist wohl müde (= You are probably tired. I'm inferring it from your behaviour)

Is that correct?

  • 1
    It's too late to really think about it, but I have the feeling, wohl ist just more informal, e.g. you probably wouldn't say it to your boss, but your friends. I've been thinking about when I would say one or the other, but I don't think it depends whether it's inferred or guessed. – infinitezero Oct 24 '19 at 22:30

It is always difficult to describe such minor differences because there is alsways the possibility that in different regions or social groups the words are used differently, but my explanation would be, that it is more opposite to the original version of your guess.

Du bist wahrscheinlich müde

sounds like a conclusion based on information (it's 23:00 and I know you got up at 5:30 and did a lot of work today), while

Du bist wohl müde

sounds like an observation (you are yawning a lot).

  • Thanks for the answer! I was sleepy last night and switched the two meanings I have been told. I have fixed my answer. Could you please edit your answer accordingly? – Alan Evangelista Oct 25 '19 at 11:51
  • Could you specify a region where you are from? – infinitezero Oct 25 '19 at 13:04
  • Are these really semantically different meanings? I agree they might be understood differently depending on your local region. – stephanmg Oct 25 '19 at 13:34
  • @infinitezero Could you specify a region where you are from? If that was aimed at me - Berlin – Volker Landgraf Oct 25 '19 at 20:31

Yes, that's just it. "wohl" is only used when you infer something from something you've observed. But "wahrscheinlich" can also describe the situation where you assume something just from general principles, such as "People are generally tired late at night".

Prototypical examples:

Ich finde, Donatello ist die coolste Ninja Turtle. - Du bist wohl nicht bei Trost!!

Sei gegrüsst, unbekannter Leser! Wahrscheinlich wunderst Du Dich, wer am Boden des Marianengraben einen Geocache hinterlegt hat...

... ?Du bist wahrscheinlich nicht bei Trost! [Sounds strange, too neutral for the conversational setting.]

Du wunderst Dich wohl, wer... [acceptable - it indicates that the hider is engaging in an imaginary conversation with the future finder.]

  • What about "Du wunderst dich wohl, wer am Boden..." ? – infinitezero Oct 25 '19 at 8:38
  • Thanks for the answer! Sorry, I was sleepy last night and switched the two meanings which I have been told by accident. I have fixed the question. Could you please edit your answer accordingly? I"d also appreciate if you could compare your second example with "wohl", as @infinitezero asked. – Alan Evangelista Oct 25 '19 at 11:49

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